In political move, Moon pushes Park on Beijing

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In political move, Moon pushes Park on Beijing

South Korea’s opposition party leader on Monday recommended President Park Geun-hye visit Beijing next month to attend an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, saying the country must take the diplomatic initiative.

The recommendation by Chairman Moon Jae-in of the New Politics Alliance of Democracy bolstered speculation that he is eyeing a bid for the presidency he failed to win in 2012, when he was bitterly defeated by Park.

“We can grow our economy by escaping the isolated island [we are on] by expanding business opportunities to North Korea and the continent. We must take the initiative in diplomacy rather than being dragged by others. To this end, I ask President Park to attend the Victory Day celebration in China,” said the lawyer-turned-politician during a party leadership meeting Monday at the National Assembly.

Talks of President Park attending the event slated for Sept. 3 in Beijing surfaced given the cordial relationship she has forged with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

But tensions emerged when Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported earlier this month that the United States pressured Korea to turn down the invitation for the event, which highlighted the strain between Beijing and Washington. Both Washington and Seoul denied the report.

Moon’s remark on Monday was interpreted as calling on the Park government to play a delicate balancing act between the two superpowers, which Korea heavily relies on economically and militarily. While South Korea has forged a strong military alliance with the United States, which stations some 30,000 men and women on the peninsula, China is Korea’s biggest trade partner, with trade volume of $228.9 billion in 2013 - more than double of that with the United States, at $103.5 billion the same year.

Moon also reiterated his demand made a day earlier that the Park government lift the May 24 sanctions imposed in retaliation for the sinking of the Cheonan warship, emphasizing that punitive action brings no benefits to Seoul while increasing Pyongyang’s dependence on Beijing.

In his call for the swift removal of the sanctions on Sunday, Moon said an “economic community” could be forged through improved ties with the North by enabling South Korean businesses to reach out to the underdeveloped reclusive state, projecting that the new opportunity would add 0.8 percentage point to the annual growth and create 50,000 jobs every year.

Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung said in a meeting Monday that demanding the removal of the economic sanctions was “inappropriate” in light of the recent land mine provocation by the North Korean army at the demilitarized zone.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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